"Here we are at a nice, friendly party. Watch carefully everything the people at this party do and say, then ask yourself, 'would I rate them plus or minus as friends?' Ready? Here we go!"
Unusual for its quality and Hollywood-type production values, which can in part be attributed to the skill of cinematographer Don Malkames, this film is also notable as an early "interactive" film. Like the other Art of Living titles and like many films that were to follow in its path, including Centron's Discussion Problems in Group Living series, this film pauses momentarily at key points and poses questions to the audience.
You and Your Friends follows a do's and don'ts, "Goofus and Gallant," right path/wrong path strategy — but with one big difference from other films — here no one is judged right or wrong. "None of these youngsters will do the right thing or the wrong every time. It'll be up to you to decide." However, it would take a pretty dumb kid to miss the point. Such a strategy is common to many films designed to influence and/or control behavior. It tends to downplay the seriousness of the conditioning by pretending to present a variety of views, and coasts on the entertainment value and release provided by showing obviously poor behavior. This is also a familiar strategy going back centuries, in this culture probably influenced by the Bible; it's easily understood. Nonetheless, its efficacy can always be questioned; I suspect most readers of Highlights for Children over the years have been fascinated by the transgressive Goofus rather than the tediously boring Gallant. And when antique educational films are publicly revived today, audiences universally identify with the bad child.
Within the history of educational media, You and Your Friends comes off as quite modern. Like today's discussion-oriented "values clarification" videos, the movie takes place completely within an adolescent world. Both good and bad behavior is shown, and audiences are asked to discuss it. Kids are shown at a party running the show without adult supervision. Although adult authority is represented by the movie's narrator and the title cards, no one really lays out exactly what to think, unlike so many other social guidance films of the time obsessed with listing a "few simple rules."
The focus on self-directed behavior rather than following rules handed down from higher authority is a key indicator of the formation of an autonomous youth culture (for more on this, see the Shy Guy program notes).
This early social guidance film was part of the Art of Living series sponsored by Look magazine and distributed by Association Films, the motion-picture distribution arm of the YMCA/YWCA. Association Films was itself an offshoot of Association Press, who published numerous books relating to adolescent guidance, including Evelyn M. Duvall's influential guide Facts of Life and Love (1950). Other Art of Living titles included You and Your Attitudes (1948) and You and Your Family (1946).
02:38:03:08 Three young 1950s couples dancing in living room of house; tracking shot of young couple walking into dining room; young man wearing 1940s to 1950s style suit badmouths a boy named Eddy, couple grabs food from table and open bottles of soda, young woman defends Eddy who the young man badmouths then walks out, text superimposed on shot “Is loyalty one test of friendship?”
02:39:02:10 Two young couples dancing in living room of house, one couple swing dances, bookshelf and chairs along back wall; tracking shot follows swing dancing couple into dining room; young man wearing bowtie offers to serve food on plate for young woman; young couple sit down to talk.
02:39:52:29 MS young woman enters frame grabbing handfuls of food off table, young man offers to help young woman, she denies the young man’s offer as she greedily grabs more food the smiles contentedly at her plate; young woman with plate of food enters living room, young couple ask girl to join them, girl says she will sit somewhere else; girl sits alone and devours her plat of food.
02:40:37:19 Young couple seated in two chairs talking, young man wearing suit and bowtie, another teenager enters frame interrupting the flirting couple to talk about herself, young couple shoot each other a look then politely listen to the young woman.
02:41:10:01 Young woman enters frame and sit beside depressed looking young man wearing a suit leaning his head against his hand; girl asks what is the matter, man says it is a secret, girl reassures young man she can be trusted; young man says he may have to move away because his father got a new job; girls pulls aside her friend and tells young man’s secret.
02:42:14:01 MS young couple having a conversation while dancing; young woman tells young man she has to cancel their date then excuses herself; girl approaches young man wearing a suit and bow tie and tells him she got rid of the other boy so they can go on their date, boy excitedly asks the girl to dance.
02:42:49:00 MS young couple slow dancing; young man pulls his partner aside to talk to her on the couch; young man cancels his date with girl to go on a trip with his family; couple gets up off couch and begin to dance again in the living room, boy spins girl.
From the Art of Living series. Presented by Association Films (Motion Picture Bureau, National Council YMCA's) and the Editors of Look Magazine. Direction: George Blake. Script: A.R. Perkins. Photography: Don Malkames, A.S.C. Film Editor: Leonard Anderson. Narrator: Don Goddard.